Four University of Georgia academic advisors have received 2021 Outstanding Undergraduate Academic Advising Awards. Whitney Jones, Molly Stanley, Katherine Field and Paul Welch were nominated by their supervisors and selected by a committee of three student representatives from SGA, along with the previous advising award winners.
Whitney Jones, UGA’s Outstanding Professional Advisor, advises more than 300 students in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. She transitioned into her current role as academic advisor for the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics in August 2020 after working as the student and career services coordinator for the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources.
“In her first few weeks, Whitney took complete control of the advising in her department. She wasted no time assessing what resources she had been given, what was missing, and what was needed,” said Kelly King, director of academic advising for the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. “She did not hesitate to push the advising in her department to where it needed to be, her well-developed advising philosophy always her guiding light.”
Students say she is supportive and encouraging. “Whitney is such a kind and helpful person. Every time I have a meeting with her, I am always surprised by how invested she is in my success and how much she remembers about our past meetings and my future plans. It makes me feel very special and important to her. Any time that I email her, she responds quickly and with very helpful advice and information. She is also very organized, which is very helpful to me when I am registering for classes or applying for certificates,” Claire Brett, an agribusiness student, said.
Jones has created Four-Year Graduation Plans for more than 300 undergraduate students within the department and developed an advising form for each major. She provides students with useful resource links to help them achieve success on and off-campus. She also sends out a monthly newsletter called the Advising Update that includes information about advising, the department, available scholarships, and campus organizations to consider joining. Jones has updated and improved the mandatory Faculty Mentor policy. In addition to her advising role, she serves as the chair of the Academic Coordinating Council’s Communications Committee, is a member of the National Academic Advising Associations and serves as the Career CORE member representative for CAES.
Jones received her B.A. in English at Valdosta State University in 2013.
Molly Stanley, UGA’s Outstanding New Advisor, advises more than 300 students in all six music majors in the Hugh Hodgson School of Music. Stanley’s experience as a music major and music teacher has allowed her to formulate a unique understanding, knowledge and compassion for the challenges student music majors face.
“Molly has transformed the culture of advising in HHSOM and earned the trust, respect, and admiration of her students, the music faculty, and her advising colleagues,” said Diane Miller, director of student academic services for the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. “Molly demonstrates skill and knowledge equal to those advisors with several times her experience.”
In her first year, Stanley organized several student outreach events, including Transfer Student Welcome Hour and the Music Business Certificate Information Session. She also started a student wellness initiative called Wellness Wednesdays, which included activities such as yoga, painting and jam sessions. The Performer’s Pantry was started by Stanley during her first year and is a food pantry for music students. Stanley currently serves as the co-chair of the First-Year Care Initiative Committee which aims to help first-year students transition to become a music major at UGA.
“Molly has been an absolute angel helping me figure out my classes and career goals in the Hugh Hodgson School of Music. She does everything she can to support my goals, show me my options according to what I want to achieve, and connect me with the people and resources I need if she does not know the answer to my questions. She encourages all of the music students to chase their dreams while making sure that they have a viable way to get there. All of her help is 100% personalized to what I need and I never feel like I’m getting a ‘one size fits all’ solution from her,” said student Marianna Schwark.
Stanley earned a B.M. in music education from Furman University and an M.Ed. in educational psychology at the University of Georgia.
Katherine Field received the Excellence in Advising Special Populations Award for her work with retention and transfer students. As the coordinator of the Office of Transfer Academic Services for the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, she advises an average of 100 students as well as supports prospective and incoming transfer students with an intended Franklin major. She also trains new advisors on transfer student advising and is the primary contact for transfer-related questions from her colleagues.
“Katherine is a caring advocate for transfer students who is committed to helping every student succeed,” said Diane Miller, director of student academic services. “She is skilled and compassionate in her service to students, which includes providing retention advising and academic coaching for transfer students on continued probation and responding to a wide variety of transfer student questions and concerns.”
Field also advises students on academic probation. “Katherine was more than understanding,” said a January 2022 student nomination. “She handled each of our conversations with empathy and grace. She was also honest and realistic about how long I would remain in probation and what it would take to reach satisfactory status. She never pushed, never set impossible standards, and was always encouraging and ready to listen. My appointments with Katherine felt more like progress and reassurance. She is truly a person who cares for others, and it showed through every interaction we had together.”
Field currently serves as the chair of the AACC Transfer Subcommittee, the AACC Transfer Discussion group and the Connect & Complete student experience working group. She also is a co-instructor for Advising Transfer Students, a certificate in academic advising course, and a co-advisor for Tau Sigma, the National Transfer Student Honor Society. She has served as a coach for student veterans through the Student Veterans Resource Center, is an advising representative for Embark@UGA, and is a member of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Advising Task Force.
Field earned a B.A. in sociology in 2004 and an M.Ed. in public health in 2013 from the University of Georgia.
Paul Welch, UGA’s Outstanding Advising Administrator, created the School of Public and International Affairs’ Undergraduate Advising Office in 2002. He worked as the director of undergraduate student services for SPIA until 2016, when he transitioned into his current role as SPIA’s director of student affairs. In his role, Welch supervises six advisors and a part-time assistant.
“Time and again, I have seen Paul go above and beyond to help students, train his staff, solve problems for the school, and create the best possible advising environment for students and his staff. This award is long overdue,” said John Maltese, associate dean for the School of Public and International Affairs and Welch’s supervisor.
Faculty have described Welch as an outstanding mentor, a fair and trusted leader and an exemplar of hard work and dedication to students.
“To put it simply, Paul cares. He cares about this university. He cares about our school. He cares about our students. And he cares about his staff,” said James Clark Jr., an academic advisor who currently works under Welch. “While his position could be completely administrative, he actively participates in the advising process, taking on a caseload of students, which allows his direct reports to have a more manageable number of advisees. I am honored to work for him and happy to call him a friend.”
Welch earned his B.A. in history at Lamar University and his M.Ed. in social science education at the University of Georgia.